The Devil's Approach to Change Management

Have you ever read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis? It's a little book about a junior level Devil who is being mentored by his uncle, a more senior Devil named Screwtape, on the ways to tempt and entrap a human soul. In the spirit of Lewis' classic, here are some fiendish tips from another Devil on some of the worst ways to lead people through organizational change. "Off with their heads" - In an M&A, make the first order of business a massive blood-shedding. Immediately eliminate all the old management that could threaten or block progress. "Ram it down their throats" - At the first Town Hall meeting, make it crystal clear that "it's a new day" whether you like it or not. And you had better get with the program. "You people suck" - Round up the "survivors" of the downsizing and herd them into an intense indoctrination session where the facilitators belittle and demean everyone in the room. "Leave the workfor…

Learning from Experience

With the rise of artificial intelligence, many are wondering what the fate of humanity will be. Will our jobs go away as we are replaced by robots and automated systems? The truth is that there will still be a genuine need for humans in the workplace of tomorrow. There will still be tasks that only humans can do. But the necessary skills are of a higher order, such as: ListeningNegotiatingCoachingCollaboratingCreativityInnovatingCritical thinkingLearning agility How will organizations develop such skills in their leaders and team members? The good news is that many organizations are already doing so. Have you ever heard the phrase "experiential learning?" It has been around, in my field (Training & Organization Development), a long time. It sums up, in two words, an entire school of thought on how best to train and develop people: Learning comes through structured experiences that challenge the learners. The concept can be traced back to John Dewey who said: “Give the pup…

The Effective Negotiator

“In business, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate.”
Do you think of yourself as an effective negotiator? Many of us do not, although we have been negotiating all our lives.
Negotiation is not just for lawyers, politicians, diplomats, and heads of state. When we understand what it is, you will see that everyone does it, all the time.

Whenever a child asks her parents for ice cream. Whenever a spouse asks her partner to help out with the household chores. Whenever a customer asks for a better deal. Whenever a colleague asks another team member for support.
What do all of these have in common? Each person is seeking to meet their needs by reaching an agreement with another party.
“The point in negotiating is to meet your own needs, not necessarily to do better than the other. Most negotiations take place in the context of long-term relationships, as in a marriage. If you are always asking: “Who’s winning this marriage?” the marriage is in serious trouble.”(Roger Fisher…

Start with Purpose

A colleague asked me how to distinguish between Mission, Vision, and Purpose. Clearly they are inter-related. Here's how I would make distinctions. Our Mission is what we are setting out to achieve for our customers. It is a here-and-now reflection of our Purpose which is Why we have come together as a team or organization and the difference we hope to make. Our Vision projects our view into the future and describes what we aspire to become. Let me illustrate with one of my recent clients, a staffing company here in NJ. Their mission is to provide high quality temporary staff for light industrial companies. Their purpose is to assist communities by providing employment in urban areas of New Jersey. Their vision is to become the # 1 staffing company in their industry. Regarding Values, when you look at values such as Integrity, Service, Safety, you can quickly see that such represent the pledge of commitment that the organization is making to its stakeholders including employees, …

In Conflict, Give Yourself an "F"

Conflict can be one of the most challenging things we have to deal with in our personal and work lives. Conflict stirs up emotions and generates stress. Because of this, many of us tend to avoid it. As a result, conflicts go unresolved. Many thinkers in the field of conflict management have attempted to frame conflict in order to help us see the choices available. The Jay Hall conflict model is a classic, as is the Thomas Kilmann model. Very helpful indeed. More recently OD consultant John Scherer has called conflict "facing the tiger" and he has framed conflict as the 7 F's: Freeze, Fight, Figure Out, Fix, Flee, Finesse, and Face. Thinking about my approach to training others on conflict resolution, here is my framework: Fight - In some conflicts, we will stand firm for our position and put up a fight for it. This is different from the destructive form of fighting illustrated by yelling, demeaning, insulting, and using bad language. Flight - In some conflict situations, …

Life is Change

"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next." - Gilda Radner The late and beloved comedienne Gilda Radner was right. Seems to me that we are living in highly change-filled times, captured best by the VUCA concept: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous In U.S. military schools, leaders are taught about dealing effectively with VUCA environments. What can we teach organizational leaders and their teams about this? Volatility - The word "volatile" carries the meaning "tending to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse." Something volatile might blow up in your face. In such situations, the more rapidly things are changing, the more that people feel anxious, afraid and stressed. As Holmes and Rahe taught us decades ago, such volatile change and harmful stress can harm our well-being and even make us sick. The more change, the more stress, the…

Summoning Your Genius

In the wonderful 1958 fantasy film The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, the legendary sailor encounters a genie (or genii) who is imprisoned in a lamp. Sinbad learns that a certain spell will bring the genie forth:

"From the land beyond beyond,
From the world past hope and fear,
I bid you, genie,
Now appear."

And thus summoned, the genie would materialize, ready to grant a wish.

Wouldn't it be great if you had a genie, readily available to you, always at your side, whenever you needed him or her?

Well get ready for this:  you do.

It's your genius.

The term "genius" comes from the ancient idea that when we are born we are accompanied by an attendant daimon, a "tutelary spirit" that guides and guards us throughout our lives, until death.

Some years ago, the writer and painter Dick Richards wrote a best-selling workbook called Is Your Genius At Work? which changed my life in some ways. 
In the book, Richards explores the notion of genius and why it just might be …